Dreams Coming True is a Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
Welcome Amy Clipston, author of The Gift of Love, to Dreams Coming True! Leave a comment on this post to enter to win a copy of The Gift of Love!
Tell us a little about yourself, Amy:
My name is Amy Clipston, and I write Amish and young adult fiction for HarperCollins Christian Publishing. I started writing as a hobby when I was in elementary school when I carried notebooks around and wrote silly stories. My first novel, A Gift of Grace, was published in 2009. Aside from writing, I work full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. I have two sons, one husband, and four spoiled rotten cats.
When did this creative dream begin?
My memoir, A Gift of Love, details my husband’s fight with kidney disease and our participation in a “kidney swap.” On June 14, 2011, I donated a kidney to a stranger, and, in return, her husband donated a kidney to Joe.
Kidney disease has been a dark cloud over our lives since Joe was diagnosed in 2000. Joe spent a year on dialysis before receiving his first kidney transplant from his brother in 2004. Unfortunately, his first transplanted kidney only lasted four years, and Joe went back on dialysis in July 2008. Since he rejected a kidney, his body built up antibodies, making him difficult to match. My donating a kidney was his best chance of receiving one from a matching donor.
How did this project/idea get started?
Joe’s illness was difficult for our boys, who are now 13 and 9. There were days when Joe was too ill to spend time with them. We couldn’t plan vacations, since coordinating dialysis out of town is complicated, and as Joe would say, it wouldn’t be fun for him to be sick in the hotel room. In addition to the emotional toll of Joe’s illness, we also suffered from financial worries. Since Joe was only well enough to work part-time, I carried the financial burden by working full-time and also writing Christian fiction. We knew it would be difficult to find a match for him since he had already rejected one kidney. It became clear that his best chance was for me to donate one of my kidneys, allowing him to receive a similar donation from a close relative or friend of someone else on the transplant list.
Watching my husband suffer with an illness was heartbreaking, and I sobbed the day I found out I couldn’t be his donor. I’m honored and humbled that I could help a family who had suffered like ours, and I never thought twice about my decision, despite negative comments I often heard.
My kidney recipient, who was a stranger before the surgery, is now my dear friend. I met her for the first time a few days after the transplant, and it was one of the most emotional experiences in my life. We hugged and thanked each other. When she received my kidney and when Joe received her husband’s kidney, both new kidneys began working immediately.
Before June 14, 2011, I had never undergone a serious surgery, and I was nervous. However, I knew in my heart that I was meant to be a donor for Joe. Many people were counting on me — my kidney recipient, Joe, and my children, who missed seeing their daddy healthy. The most exhilarating moment for me was when I spoke to my younger son on the phone after the surgery, and without any prompting he said, “Mommy, I’m proud of you.”
Now that Joe is well, I notice that my boys smile more, which warms my heart. I’m so very thankful I was called to donate a kidney. It’s not often that you have the ability to save two lives–my husband and my kidney’s recipient are both still with their families.
After the transplant, I found myself sharing our story with anyone who would listen, and it seemed that each person told me I should I write a book. One day I emailed my literary agent and asked her if she thought I should pursue a memoir. My agent contacted and my editor, and soon I had a contract for a memoir.
What are the goals and intentions of this project?
I’m certain that Joe and I are called to share our story in order to inspire others who may be going through similar health problems or other difficulties. I pray that our story gives others hope.
How does your project create community?
I’ve received numerous emails from folks who either have been through an organ transplant or know someone who is suffering from kidney disease. Others have told me that I inspired them to become an organ donor on their license or even get tested for someone who needs a kidney. I’m thankful that God is using our story to touch hearts.
Describe the behind-the-scenes effort of your project. Where do the ideas come from? How many are involved in the process? Does each contributor have a specific role?
A Gift of Love was the most difficult book I’ve ever written. The memoir details my life, including the heartbreak time when my father had his massive stroke in 1994. The book shares when my father and also my father-in-law passed away. While writing the book, I had to relive those hard times and also share other intimate memories. Although the project was difficult, it was also cathartic for me since I was able to detail the emotional rollercoaster Joe and I endured during his two transplants. I insisted that Joe read it before it was published so that he was on board with all of the personal stories I shared. I told him that he couldn’t take it back once it was in print. Joe supported he book, but he also had tears in his eyes while he read certain chapters.
What’s been the hardest part about getting it off the ground?
Getting through the first two drafts were difficult for me. I turned in my first draft and then read another memoir, which was much more emotional and better written than mine. I asked my editor for a second chance at edits, and I was thankful that I got another chance to improve the writing. Sharing something so personal was challenge for me, and I’m still a little embarrassed today when someone comes up to me and talks about my book. I keep reminding myself, however, that the book isn’t just about me; it’s a story that is meant to inspire others.
What have you learned?
I’ve learned that there are more people than I ever imagined who need to hear our story in order to find hope in their situation. I also learned that God is using Joe and me to help others. There is a higher purpose to Joe’s kidney disease and that purpose is to use our story to help guide others through their own health challenges.
I’ve been surprised by the number of people who have reached out to me to share their own stories and to thank me for sharing our story. I’m so thankful that I am able to inspire them.
What are some ways you promote your project?
I regularly give copies of my books away on Facebook, I speak at book clubs and libraries, I speak at National Kidney Foundation events, and I have book signings.
What social network has worked best for you?
I mostly utilize Facebook.
What advice would you give someone else who has a creative dream like yours?
Follow your dream and write the book of your heart. Talk to other writers and even talk to a literary agent. Don’t give up on that dream!
Where do you see this project in five years?
I hope to continue sharing my story at National Kidney Foundation events. I enjoy telling our kidney story and encouraging others to be tested. Other than having my children, donating a kidney as the most rewarding accomplishment I have done in my life. Give the gift of life! Donate life and donate blood!
How can we find your creative dream come true?